The next generation of automotive engineering talent strutted its stuff at the recent Formula SAE-A University Challenge at Calder Park Raceway, Melbourne.

Competing against a record 30 team entries comprising 700 students from universities throughout Australia, New Zealand, India, Malaysia, Japan and USA, the Monash University team won the overall trophy for the seventh consecutive year.

Australian university student entrants have been outstandingly successful since the competition’s inception on 2001 with the Monash University team standout winners having taken the overall winners’ trophy for the seventh year in succession. A team from the University of Melbourne finished second, with the University of Canterbury (New Zealand) third.

The students are studying a range of disciplines, such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, informatics, mechatronics, management, business studies and marketing.

Build a car in a year

Formula SAE-A is part of the Formula Student international competition in which students are required to design and construct a single-seater prototype race car within a 12-month timeframe, using either an internal combustion engine of no more than 600cc or, alternatively, an electric motor of no more than 85kw.


Vehicles are carefully scrutineered for compliance to Formula SAE-A’s stringent construction guidelines and all safety aspects surrounding motorsport racing, including stability, must be passed before they are cleared to proceed or enter the race track.

Once scrutineering is completed, a series of dynamic events are conducted, including an acceleration test over 75 metres, figure-eight maneuverability, and a single lap time trial of the course in reverse.

The final test, worth the most points in the competition, is a grueling 22km time trial that tests the limits of the machine and the driver. Fuel economy/CO² emissions are tested in relation to the design in today’s economy.

From design to production

Students source sponsors, establish budgets, project manage and develop business plans and detailed market strategies. They present their entire case to a judging panel or board of industry experts to convince them the design is a profitable investment. Strict guidelines and rules for the Formula SAE-A event cover more than the design of the car and include accurately costing the construction with an objective to substantiating a case for economical or cheap (theoretical) production.

The competition runs over four days, with the first two set aside for registrations, team and driver briefings and static events. Days three and four are intense, with every aspect of the vehicle’s engineering compliance, track testing plus an autocross event, where the skills of the driver and the ability of the vehicle are tested.

The aerodynamics of the vehicle play an important part and regulation changes prior to this year’s event meant that rear wing endplates had to be in line with the inside of the rear tyres. In previous years teams were allowed to have rear wing endplates in line with the outside of the rear wheels.

Looking to the future

An electric vehicle section commenced five years ago to encourage university research and development in the ‘Mobility for Tomorrow’. The development from just two entrants in 2010 to six in 2015 reflects the exciting growth in this technology. The electric vehicle winner this year was RMIT University, making it five wins in a row in this section.

Event organiser, The Society of Automotive Engineers – Australasia (SAE-A), encompasses a large spectrum of Australasian mobility, including aerospace, light and heavy rail, heavy commercial transport, construction equipment, agriculture, mining, caravan, aftermarket and the service and repair of on- and off-road vehicles.

“Students participating in the Formula SAE-A event are always keenly sought after by industry on graduation. These students gain such broad ranging skills from participating that they are virtually industry-ready at the end of their studies and are able to contribute in a wide range of industries,” said SAE-A President Adrian Feeney.

“2016 has once again demonstrated the amazing talent of young engineering students, many of whom will go on to make valuable contributions in a wide variety of industries both within Australia and internationally.”

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